11 Ways to Monetize Your Version of HQ Trivia

HQ Trivia couldn’t have come at a better time for me. (HQ Trivia doesn't ring a bell? Read all about the multiple-choice live trivia game here)

For years, I’ve been evangelising interactivity as the next step for TV and video. First with app agency Small Town Heroes. Now with Zender, the SaaS platform we launched to make interactive mobile formats easily accessible for brands and broadcasters.

Interactivity works

Over the years, I learned that people really love participating. With Small Town Heroes we built interactive apps that engaged thousands of viewers and topped the app charts for months.

Our experience tells us: interactivity works.

It’s not the interactivity of HQ Trivia that makes me so happy.

It’s something else. Something new. In fact, something so new that for the last couple of years I’ve had a hard time explaining it 😵.  

That's because around 2 years ago, we decided to step away from the so-called second screen apps.

I wanted to remove the inevitable disconnect that users experience when they have to divide their attention between 2 screens. Second screen is cumbersome, and although it works to a certain extent, it has never really wowed a generation.

So, rather than pitching second screen apps, I began promoting “native experiences” 🤓.

HQ Trivia: the perfect example of a native experience

A native experience happens on one screen, more particularly on the screen of your mobile device.

Native experiences are not about watching TV with one eye and playing along on your phone with the other. No, you watch and play at the same time, on the same screen, and your focus is 100%.

The ‘native experience'  concept is not always easy to explain to dyed-in-the-wool broadcasters who think in terms of numbers of viewers rather than levels of engagement. Neither is it easy to sell the concept to brands: brands are all about engagement, but usually live broadcasting is way out of their comfort zone.

So, THIS is why I’m doing happy dances every time I see HQ Trivia celebrate another success. Because their success makes it easy to explain the value of making live and interactive content specifically for mobile audiences. 

Me every time HQ Trivia breaks their viewer record, brings in another great sponsor deal, gets another gazillion HQties flooding the Twitterverse.

Me every time HQ Trivia breaks their viewer record, brings in another great sponsor deal, gets another gazillion HQties flooding the Twitterverse.

HQ Trivia is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the first truly native show. It's a phenomenon that heralds a new era of entertainment.

An era where live shows and games are produced with only one purpose in mind: to be interactive, and to be mobile.

From now on, no more “We have a TV format here and we’d like to do something with it on mobile too”. Or “We have a brand to promote and we need a campaign that works on mobile too”. No. No no no.

From now on, new formats will have to be radically new if they want to play in the same league as HQ Trivia. From concept to the execution, from artwork to monetization: it’s all a new game.

A new format calls for new marketing and monetization

As you might now, our Audience Engagement Software Zender has a Quiz Module to easily build and manage your version of HQ Trivia.

When talking with customers and prospects, I discovered many great ideas people are coming up with to monetize their HQ Trivia-like app. After all, not everybody has the luxury of deep pockets full of investor’s money like HQ Trivia - read about their specific monetization model at the bottom of this article.

I believe an innovative format like a live-hosted mobile quiz deserves a well-considered monetization plan. Existing advertisement models can of course be used, but I see far more potential in being creative and innovative in monetization too!

One thing is certain: the shift to using mobile devices for media consumption continues. However, the amount of money spent on mobile advertising has not caught up. This leaves a big opportunity on the table, as illustrated for the US market in Kleiner Perkins’ Internet Trends Report 2017:



To help people who are looking to get a piece of this cake by launching a mobile live quiz app, here are 11 ways to monetize your HQ Trivia version.

1 Mobile App User Acquisition

I’m starting with this one because it’s not monetization in the strictest sense of the word. A marketer at a customer talked to me about building a live quiz module in their existing app to attract user traffic.

They did the math of how much an episode of a quiz costs them versus the app downloads + activations it generates. For them, the cost per user worked out really well compared with other app user acquisition campaigns.

Although the cost related to getting a new user to download your app, or an existing user to open the app is different for each company, below you can see that the worldwide average mobile app user acquisition cost comes down to about $8 for a registration...

Statistic: Average mobile app user acquisition costs worldwide from September 2016 to August 2017, by user action and operating system (in U.S. dollars) | Statista
Average Mobile App User Acquisition Costs Worldwide by Statista

2 Banner ads and commercials between questions ( ☠️ caution ☠️ ) 

I’m including these traditional advertisement models with a word of caution. You could display small banner ads in the quiz, either your own, or via a mobile advertising exchange. You could insert commercial videos in between questions. Both will generate a lot of impressions, but risk breaking the smooth flow of the game and distract players, potentially causing them to leave the game. Also, these monetization models might not be in line with what users expect from an innovative experience, so I would steer clear of these if possible.

3 Sponsored giveaways

A new format calls for innovative advertising.

In the US, Nike has understood this perfectly by creating 100 limited-edition HQ Air Max 270 sneakers as well as sponsoring a $100,000 prize pot for a sponsored game, which included subtle questions about Nike, sneakers, athletes and designers.

4 Extra Rounds

Sponsored bonus rounds after giving a wrong answer

Sponsored bonus rounds after giving a wrong answer

For people who have answered wrong, a set of second chance rounds for extra prizes could be a good opportunity for an advertiser.

A beer brand, travel organisation or supermarket could sponsor additional rounds on a topic of their choice with the people who dropped out of the main game.




The first questions in a live quiz are usually easy, to keep all players engaged. Advertisers could either be mentioned in the question or answer, or a brand could sponsor a generic question about their industry.

Delhaize-sponsored question

Delhaize-sponsored question

Question sponsored by The Avengers

Question sponsored by The Avengers

6 Sponsored host

A brand mascot or representative could come in the studio to take over or assist the regular host, resulting in a lot of brand exposure.

7 Product placement

Product placement has been around since the beginning of television, but it still works. Netflix for example, who doesn't feature traditional advertising, has a deal with Samsung to show their devices as the tech-of-choice in House of Cards.

In a quiz, the host’s birthday could be celebrated with a big bunch of flowers from Interflora, or the host could eat a Snickers during the show. 




8 Extra lives

Advertisers could give away extra lives before a game starts by giving a code in exchange for a certain activity, like register for a newsletter or watch an advertisement.


9 Charge money to play

To create direct revenue without going through sponsorships or advertisements, some Zender prospects are considering charging a small fee in order to play. You could also let people buy extra lives to get back into the game after they gave a wrong answer. Always check your country’s gambling commission and Apple guidelines for your specific situation though.

10 Sponsored intro

During the minutes before the quiz starts and when all the users come online, the screen could show logos or otherwise sponsored content.

A hypothetical start screen sponsored by Mini

A hypothetical start screen sponsored by Mini

11 Mobile App Rewards

For the last one on this list, we're looking at what kind of monetization your user prefers. American venture capital firm KPCB asked an international group of more than 10.000 people what online video advertising they prefer. They found that the majority of people are positive towards Mobile App Rewards, where you get an extra life for watching a short advertisement video. 

A short history of monetization of HQ Trivia

So far, the most successful live mobile game is HQ Trivia, so I’m leaving you with a short history on the monetization of that particularly viral game-show app.

HQ Trivia started in August 2017 with $250 prize money and a small but quickly growing audience, reaching 4000 players in October. The money came from an $8M funding the founders received in 2016, also to build other apps that never took off.

The show gained users through word-of-mouth. In November, when the quiz show app attracted more than 100,000 players per episode, founder Yusupov said the following about monetization:

If we do any brand integrations or sponsors, the focus will be on making it enhance the gameplay. For a user, the worst thing is feeling like, ‘I’m being optimized – I’m the product now.’” - Rus Yusupov in Variety

It wasn’t until 4 months later, in March '18, when the number of users reached nearly 2 million players, that the first signs of monetization were showing: first, the game sponsored by Nike, and in the same month a $3 million sponsorship deal with Warner Bros to promote three movies was revealed. In the same month, a $15M investment round was raised at a valuation of more than $100 million.

While variations on HQ Trivia, serving other countries or with a different gameplay, might not have the deep pockets of investors and will have to look for monetization options much sooner, the success of those games will depend on how cleverly they go about monetization.

For more information on how Zender can help with your interactive live project on mobile, request a no-strings-attached demo.